Over the past years, months and days, we’ve all been exposed to #fakenews in one form or another. Some of it is obvious and maybe even funny. Other fake news maybe less obvious, especially if it comes through a friend or colleague. #coronavirus has led to many fast circulating examples of misinformation so here is a quick guide to how to make sure you have up to date validated information and a list of specific #COVID19 resources.
Yet, we often don’t know where to go in the middle of so much available information. Newspapers often get their information second hand and report , as is their function, on ever changing situations early on. Blog posts can look surprisingly well referenced but if you go into the references maybe citing animal studies or non peer-reviewed articles. Did you know that many journals now ask authors to pay for their article to be published, knowing they have a willing market in researchers needing to publish a certain amount of articles a year?
Other sources of potentially biased information due to having vested interests are patient information webpages which appear at the top of google. Often pharmaceutical companies or pressure groups have invested a lot of money in making sure that their page appears first when you type in their name. It may take a while to find out who is behind the page – a red flag in itself.
So where should you look?
The best sources are official, have an obligation to be updated regularly and have been reviewed by someone other than the author. Looking at the site where the information is hosted is one of the first steps.
- .ac.uk – university sites in the UK
- .gov – official government sites
- .nhs.uk – the National Health Service in the United Kingdom
- .org – if combined with it being the national college of a medical speciality, it should be a reliable if not always very easy to use source of specific medical information
- .edu – a educational institution which may be a university hospital with information for healthcare professionals and patients.
Clinical guidelines and updates are often published by national societies but there are also a few other places to look:
FDA: The U.S Food and Drug Administration website has a lot of regulatory information but also updates on current events such as donating plasma if you have recovered from COVID-19. Use the search option to find information about your topic of interest.
NICE : The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is a UK based organisation on which clinical protocols are based. if you want to check what is the is the latest guidance on a specific health issue, including coronavirus, then this is a good place to start. Don’t be put off by the sometimes dense text, there is always a summary option available.
For research papers you can look at PubMed where almost all research papers are collated, with links out to the originals and links to other articles citing the information provided in your chosen article. You can specify how recent you want the article to be and whether you are interested in just humans or also animals. Using the “review” filter means that you will get an article looking at all the research on a particular topic. This can be very useful for the general public or non-specialists. You can also set up alerts so that you receive an email every time someone publishes something in your field of interest.
If you do receive a whatsapp or facebook message purporting to come from Stamford University for example, copy and paste the first line into google and you will quickly find out if it is a scam or not. Even videos with an MD explaining something may not be validated information. Always fact check anything you receive.
Specific COVID-19 or #coronavirus resources.
In view of the fast changing events it really is best to go straight to the horse’s mouth, or the specific #COVID-19 pages of the ones informing the experts and the general public:
- World Health Organisation
- British Medical Journal – Best Practise
- John Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard.
- KnowledgeShare compilation of articles and guidelines coming out.
If you want to hear it from those on the ground.
Front-line health workers whether doctors, nursed or paramedics have taken to podcasts as the way of reflecting on their experiences and how it fits in with the evidence. They are ahead of the official guidelines especially in fast-changing situations such as the current coronavirus pandemic.
EMCrit – USA based emergency physician and guests.
The Good GP – Australian Family Medicine Doctors talk about their experiences and latest updates.
Emergency Medicine College explains how to deal with COVID19 for non-EM doctors.
Pondermed – talks about the reality for radiographers amongst other COVID-19 topics.
Paramedic podcasts – prehospital health workers are the first people on the scene and have a unique view on what actually works and is really going on.